Here are a few facts that you should know right off the top about Insight Vacations: They never have more than 40 passengers on a coach, usually closer to 36; in 2014, the tour operator will have complimentary WiFi on its coaches in more than 25 countries in Europe and all their North America coaches; they offer nearly 60 Signature hotels including chateaux or manor houses, even five-star castles; and they offer tours to Africa, Asia, North America and Europe. And with the launch of the 2014 Europe and Britain, Eastern Mediterranean & Morocco brochure, the company now offers itineraries visiting every country in Europe except one (that would be Kosovo).
“We are one of the biggest Europe experts,” says Marc Kazlauskas, president of Insight Vacations, “and we now have the biggest program we’ve ever had—115 itineraries. We want to make sure that what the customers want we have available to them and that means a good option of choices in Europe. Frankly, we add itineraries based on client and agent feedback. A perfect example of that is something we added this year, a Croatia-only tour. We started there about 10 or 11 years ago, and we saw it grow and grow, and we thought we could certainly use a Croatia-only tour.” That would be the 15-day Country Roads of Croatia tour (from $3,699) that explores the country in-depth. “It’s a beautiful destination,” he says, “and it’s ideal for the well-traveled client who has been to Europe already. They want something different than what they’ve already seen in Europe.”
For something truly different, though, direct your clients to the new 17-day Principalities of Europe tour (rates from $4,999), which takes in Moldova, San Marino and Andorra. “We’ve driven through these areas, but we’ve never actually stopped there, so what we decided to do was add the Principalities because they are these incredible areas that people want to spend more time in and chances are, you are not going to go there on your own.”
And if the numbers are any indication, offering all these options has been a good idea. “It seems like clients are requesting everything. We are up just under 20 percent to Europe for next year. Incredible, incredible numbers.” The U.S., too, is doing phenomenally well, according to Kazlauskas. “We are up 21 percent in U.S./Canada business. The most popular itineraries are those with national parks, fall foliage and Hawaii.”
the differentiating factor
So what sets Insight apart? Kazlauskas points to the fact that the operator offers highly experiential vacations. “Our clients are realizing that if you do it on your own, you are not going to experience it like a local. So people travel with Insight because they are going to experience the destination like a local. We are going to show them things they can’t get on their own or if you could, it’s things that are super expensive.” In France, for example, the operator takes clients to a family-owned vineyard, where the owner comes out, talks to them and walks them around the vineyard. They then get to taste the wine and have lunch with the owner. “That’s a life-moving experience,” Kazlauskas says, “because you just can’t do that on your own. There’s also an incredible cooking demonstration in Italy where a chef takes the group to a local market; he buys the food with them and shows them how he picks his produce and his meat.” Then the group observes the chef as he does some cooking demonstrations and they eat and chat with him.
Insight offers a type of experience that they refer to as Signature, which, Kazlauskas says, is about “authenticity. We use the word Signature to point out the overall things we do; the authentic things such as ‘signature’ dining, ‘signature’ hotels, and ‘signature’ experiences.”
In terms of the different products the operator offers, there’s “first and foremost,” he says, “Insight, which is our premium product, and then Gold, which is our deluxe and luxury product that goes across the U.S./Canada, Europe and India.” Within the premium product, the operator offers Country Roads Tours, which, as Kazlauskas points out, takes clients off the beaten path to explore scenic areas, and sightsee in smaller cities with stays in chateaux, manor houses. “Country Roads is for second-timers,” he says, “those who have been to Rome, but have not gotten a real taste of Italy. They haven’t been to the little towns.”
For the first-timers, meanwhile, Insight offers Easy Pace, which is very slow paced with 3- or 4-night stays in each destination and plenty of time for clients to explore on their own. “It has lots of experiential touches,” Kazlauskas adds, “and it’s the more leisurely guided vacations we offer.” He stresses that it’s ideal for the client who has never been on an escorted tour and who might be a little apprehensive.
working with agents
According to Kazlauskas, Insight is “the agents’ best partner.” In fact, 97 percent of its bookings are done through agents because every bit of marketing it does is to generate business with agents. “Every time we market to a client, we reference the agent that booked them.” They’ve got a team of sales managers helping agents close the sale; they offer FAMs and have an online travel agent-dedicated website (insightvacations.com/us/user/log-in) where agents can make bookings and access agent-specific tools.